Mario Draghi warns growth in eurozone could slow, after downbeat data

ECB To Be Neutral For The Euro Exchange Rates On Thursday - SEB

Growth had been the main focus of the meeting, said Draghi, admitting that it had eclipsed conversations about the future of actual monetary policy which was not discussed per se, but rather each central bank member reported on the growth picture in their individual country.

Europe's central bank is expected to hold interest rates steady, given that recent economic indicators have revealed a slowing of the euro zone economy.

"Following several quarters of higher than expected growth, incoming information since our meeting in early March points towards some moderation while remaining consistent with a solid and broad-based expansion of the euro area economy", he told reporters in Frankfurt.

Mr Draghi said risks surrounding the euro area growth outlook remained broadly balanced but that "risks related to global factors, including the threat of increased protectionism, have become more prominent".

The ECB confirmed expectations by leaving policy unchanged earlier on Thursday, keeping to its commitment to bond-buying at a monthly €30 billion until at least September, with rates on hold "well past" then.

Policymakers will need to agree an end-date for the ECB's €2.55 trillion bond purchase programme, which has cut borrowing costs and kick-started growth, even if it has failed to lift inflation back to target.

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In the press conference Mario Draghi announced the governing council's message was for "caution tempered by an unchanged confidence that inflation will converge to our inflation target over the medium-term but that confidence is conditional on an accommodative monetary policy framework being in place". That is a stimulus measure that pumps newly printed money into the economy, a step that can raise inflation.

Interest rates on the main refinancing operations were unchanged at 0.00 percent, according to a statement from the ECB's Governing Council. The bank suggested that rates would remain lower for a while after quantitative easing ended.

Therefore, the window in which to provide clear signals to the markets of the European Central Bank expected change to forward guidance and policy is increasingly narrow.

Even if the single currency's rise has petered out for now, exporters like Continental and Volkswagen flagged the exchange rate as a risk.

Nonetheless, the euro's recent strength has had a relatively limited impact in recent weeks.

A stronger euro would cap inflation, but would affect growth and exports. The currency is up 1.5 per cent against the dollar this year and just 0.3 per cent higher on a trade-weighted basis.

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